Desk with glasses resting on a laptop with a vase of pink flowers to the side.

How Technology Improves the Publishing Business

Steve Jobs in 1990

There’s something more going on, there’s another side of the coin that we don’t talk about much. We experience it when there’s gaps. When everything’s not ordered and perfect, when there’s kind of a gap you experience this in-rush of something. It’s the same thing that wants people to be poets instead of bankers. I think that same spirit can be put into products.

Hardware to Software to Market Trends

Industries change when technology improves and when gaps are filled. Publishing is no different. From ’80s desktop hardware to the overwhelming number of apps and sites today, innovation isn’t slowing down. To be a successful business, a publisher needs to keep up to date.

Our current audiobook situation is the best example of innovative technology changing the publishing industry. Technology has allowed the average global citizen to carry a library of audiobooks on their phone, and according to Forbes they are the fastest growing sector of the publishing industry: “US publishers reported audiobook sales in 2018 that totaled $940 million.” Hindsight allows publishers to see what’s on the horizon. We can’t be scared of the ones and zeros.

DTP: Hardware that Streamlined Publishing

Desktop publishing, or DTP, reinvented the day-to-day work of a publisher. Before Apple Macintosh (1984), Hewlett-Packard’s LaserJet printer (’84), Adobe’s PostScript (’85), or PageMaker (’85), publishers used typewriters, hired career typesetters, and even managed entire type shops despite their additional overhead. Layout and design on a computer took years off lives. Being able to print galleys at the office saved time and resources. Publishers didn’t cut and tape paper to print images and words on the same page. DTP meant publishers could create a printable document and have ten copies of it in one sitting. That’s something we all have today and it has improved alongside digital communication efficiency.

Task Managers: Software that Improved Publisher’s Communication

Every business is run through the internet by increasingly updated software. Many modern companies rely on the internet to promote their stories, often through apps that manage their tasks and information—task management software. A team proficient in Mailchimp, Trello, Monday.com, Hootsuite, or Slack has a better chance of succeeding.

Today, teams can be spread out in varied time zones and countries. Freelancers are more prevalent with sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and PeoplePerHour. Teams with members spread out across the globe make video chats less practical and miscommunications more costly because they can take hours of emailing and waiting. Hootsuite allows an account holder to schedule social media posts and Trello makes it easier to move projects from team to team. Learning to use these systems can feel like a time suck, but with a dedicated team a press will benefit as much as the first press to take a risk on desktop publishing products.

Where to Look

Hindsight only takes you so far. With AI, changes in metadata management, SEO, personal data mining, ad blockers, and increased voice searching, all potential influences on the industry looking forward can be overwhelming. There are some projects out there worth paying attention to.

Technology for Publishing has a Publishing Innovations newsletter that compiles articles touching on everything listed above. It’s worth checking for news about multimedia conglomerate buys and the Big Five if you don’t already get that from Publishers Weekly and the Bookseller.

In November 2019, a new browser called Brave launched it’s 1.0 stable version. Brave Software was founded in 2015 by Brendan Eich (creator of JavaScript and former CEO of Mozilla FireFox) The browser is working to solve the problem of ad blockers, which are so widely used no business can trust that their ads are being seen. Brave pays users to view ads, incentivising digital publishers, advertisers, and anyone off the street to use the browser. At launch they had eight million monthly active users. A month later they had ten million. Innovations like Brave have the potential to change the way publishers advertise. They are one example of what to keep your eye on as a publisher.

If you want to outsource your digital work, you could reach out to Publishing Technology Partners and search for articles with their names. I’ve found timely articles by all four partners on Publishers Weekly.

Whatever changes, we know from history that technology will play a large part. Spending the time to learn new technology will allow publishers to work smarter, instead of harder.